Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters at LIndell symposium

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters appears in a video feed on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021, from a Cyber Symposium sponsored by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell in Sioux Falls, S.D. Peters is facing accusations she compromised the security of the county's election equipment and has been ordered by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold to replace the system before the November election.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold on Tuesday appointed Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner, the county's former clerk and recorder, to supervise the county's upcoming November election after determining that Tina Peters, the county's elected clerk, is incapable of overseeing the election.

Peters is under criminal investigation for a security breach that resulted in passwords for the county's election system being posted online. Last week, Griswold ordered the county to replace 41 pieces of election equipment that could have been compromised by the password leak.

Griswold also named state Rep. Janice Rich, R-Grand Junction, Ouray County Clerk Michelle Nauer and former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher to an advisory committee tasked with assisting Reiner in the months ahead.

Griswold said Monday that because Peters has been directly involved in multiple security breaches, the clerk can't be trusted to run the upcoming off-year election. Since the secretary of state is Colorado's chief election officer, Griswold has the authority to name a replacement for that role, she said.

Reiner's temporary appointment doesn't affect Peters' other duties as county clerk, including recording documents, handling vehicle registrations and issuing marriage licenses.

"The people of Mesa County deserve safe and secure elections," Griswold said in a statement. "I am confident that with these appointments, voters in Mesa will be able to exercise their constitutional right to have their voices heard in our democracy.

"As Secretary of State, my top priority is to ensure all election security protocols are followed and to safeguard Coloradans’ right to vote and we will continue to conduct the business required of our office to provide oversight, to ensure the integrity of the state’s elections."

Reiner, a Republican, spent 20 years working in the Mesa County clerk's office, including from 2011-2019 as clerk before facing term limits and winning election as county treasurer. Rich filled Mesa County's clerk position for eight years before that, and Buescher, a Democrat and former state lawmaker from Grand Junction, oversaw state elections from 2009-2011 as the the appointed secretary of state.

"While unusual, this important step of placing a top-notch election expert in the office will ensure a safe and secure election is conducted for the citizens of Mesa County,” said Matt Crane, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association and a former Republican clerk and recorder from Arapahoe County, in a statement released by Griswold's office.

Peters, a Republican serving her first term, was elected in 2018 and is up for re-election next year, when Griswold, a Democrat, will also be seeking a second term.

Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said last week that his office is conducting a criminal investigation into the alleged security breach, including executing a search warrant on the clerk's office in Grand Junction at the same time staffers from Griswold's office were there to examine equipment and documents.

A spokeswoman for the FBI's Denver division told Colorado Politics that the bureau is involved in the investigation.

"The FBI is working with the 21st Judicial District Attorney's Office on the forensic review and analysis of county voting systems to determine if there was a potential federal criminal violation," Courtney Bernal, a member of the division's public affairs team, said in an email.

Griswold charged at a press conference in Denver on Thursday that someone in Peters' office told county staff to turn off a video surveillance camera that keeps watch on the election equipment before a routine software update was performed on May 25. The camera wasn't turned back on until earlier this month, Griswold said.

Peters hasn't responded to multiple requests for comment from Colorado Politics.

On Monday, Griswold alleged that Peters was involved in creating copies of the election equipment server's hard drive that have been widely shared online.

The disk images include copies of the Dominion Voting Systems election management software, used to operate election equipment in 62 of Colorado's 64 counties, Griswold's office confirmed.

The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency "does not view this breach as a significant heightening of the election risk landscape at this point," Griswold's office said in a release.

Griswold alleged that one of the hard drive images was created on the night of May 23, a Sunday, when Peters, one of her employees and a man identified by the secretary of state's office as Gerald Wood accessed the secure room where the equipment is stored.

Griswold's office has charged that Wood was also present in the same room two days later during the software update — known as a "trusted build" — when a video that included system passwords appears to have been recorded. Efforts to reach him have been unsuccessful.

On Tuesday, Griswold identified two other Mesa County employees she alleges took part in the security breach, including by helping Wood attend the software update by "misrepresenting the individual's employment status and role."

Peters doesn't appear to have returned to her office since departing early last week for Sioux City, S.D., where she appeared on stage at a three-day symposium sponsored by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, an election conspiracy theorist and prominent supporter of former President Donald Trump.

At the symposium, Peters accused Griswold of persecuting her and denied she was involved in the password leak.

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